What will the world look like when we come out at the other end of this? For me these days are mostly an exercise in being present to the moment, made easier in a sweet house, with beloved daughter, plenty of food and still – a job. But the freaky specter just beyond both our physical and metaphorical doorstep creeps up on me in the evenings in that familiar chest-tightening way that fear and anxiety has.
At the end of the day when I watch the news, read Twitter, look at Facebook — my cozy bubble bursts, fury erupts and my heart breaks at the pain and injustice in the world. What does the future hold for any of us — especially living on the wrong side of the financial brink?
I am privileged and feel currently graced in my life — but living close to the bone is not unfamiliar to me. With no partner to share expenses, no trust fund family, no bulky bank account to see me through my old age, like most people, I must continue to work until…? That’s fine except it would be nice if I could imagine an end in sight that didn’t include destitution.
I’m exaggerating. For a start, I’m good at living on little and in fact delight in finding clothes at thrift shops and furniture at flea markets. I mow my own lawn, clip my own hedge, refer to Youtube tutorials to make repairs around the house. I heat the house with my wood stove, hang my laundry and have no dishwasher. Yes, I’m a veritable pioneer woman. None of this feels like I am denying myself – I prefer to live simply and I have more than so many.
But I also believe there IS enough to go around so we can all have a better life and we should not accept the stark inequities that exist. One solution resisted by the powers that be who will fight to (our) death against it — is that richer people of course should pay more taxes. And the obscenely rich (who really needs to be a billionaire?) who pay none, need to pay them instead of posing as heros or our benefactors, sprinkling a fraction of their wealth on pet projects or the latest emergency, while we gratefully send thanks for the money largely earned off the backs of others or just because money begets money.
Other countries take care of the health and good education of their people as a matter of course. I’ve lived in a few of them, enjoyed their health care, healthy and fresh food choices on every corner, cleaner more efficient public transportation. While working with UNICEF in Croatia during the war, I once visited a school that had been damaged by a mortar. I was given a tour of the classroom – the sky visible through the hole in the ceiling. But the thing that struck me beyond the damage was what a beautiful, well equipped and updated school this was in a not-wealthy village. The destruction of the class was sad and it was awful to imagine if students had been there at the time (they were not) but I couldn’t help thinking what a more beautiful school this was compared to let’s say, the South Bronx not far from where I grew up. I think of that cheerful room with colorful desks and plenty of books and equipment (back in the early 90s) now when I visit some classes in schools in urban Connecticut. I am a witness that the quality of life in countries not as ‘rich’ as ours is often better. The gap between rich and poor here is shameful and has only been getting worse.
I want to believe that this pandemic is shifting us into a new understanding and reality where we really are in this all together. I don’t think, nor do I want to, go back to ‘normal’. For one, I haven’t felt ‘normal’ in almost 4 years. I’ve been on a low, angry simmer. The need for change has been amplified to a deafening decibel with this dreadful disease. Can you hear it?